Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Romances" in Memoir HOME IS WHERE...

                 There was an automotive body shop next door, and every day, Mr. Forman would come there in his Jeep truck with his son Howard, who was my age, 11 or 12. Howard drove the Jeep by himself down to the red house, around it, and back to the garage, and back and forth all morning. We would sit on the hill and watch, and I was hoping he would notice me. He was so cute! He did invite me to go ice skating, and I was thrilled. I was certain we would marry, but, no, that never happened.

                 Next on my romance list came Wayne Schoonmaker, another love interest. He went to the same church as my best friend, so after I went to my church, I would go across to the Baptist Church and again tried to get Wayne to notice me. The best I did was to go with him to a basketball game, and that was it. Before these two boys was a boy, Leon Gillespie, who was in the kindergarten class with me. We were boyfriend and girlfriend until he moved, in fourth grade. I went to their house for a couple of days over Christmas in 1960, and we drifted apart soon after. I am still good friends with his mother, Lillian, and I talk on the phone twice a week with her.

                 Wayne became a minister, and Howard stayed in the area where he grew up. I don't know if they ever knew how much in love with I was with the three of them. Each one was the love of my life at that time, and of course each was destined to be my future husband.

         Growing up we had no set rules. We knew what we could do and not do. Nancy and I never had to be told to go to bed. We were like Dad, early to bed and early to rise. After we were 12 years old, we could stay up till 9 o'clock if we wanted. We could date at age 13, and after we turned 15, we could stay out until 1 a.m.

         The man who owned Chaffee's market opened a drive-in movie theater in the early 1960s. Once a week, he had a special: for one dollar, a whole car load. Doreen and her friends would pile as many kids as possible in the car---and even in the trunk. Nancy and I once went to the drive-in with Uncle Connie to see Psycho. This was one night Grandma sat on the end of our beds all night, because we were scared to death.

                 I would write on my books "Mrs. Howard Forman or "Mrs. Leon Gillespie" or "Mrs. Wayne Schoonmaker." Marriage never came close to happening until 1962, when I met Kenny. The following year, junior year for him and Doreen, he wrote in her yearbook, "Doreen, my future sister-in-law." I was over-the-moon when I read this. I was certain this was a sure thing, and after my graduation I would then become Mrs. Kendall Willis Garrett. Very classy name, right?

         We met this way: I had to go to the office to file a report. This was the eighth grade, and at this same time on my way to my bus a boy put a note in my hand, asking me to go to the movies. Of course, I said yes. He was in the 10th grade with Doreen, and his name was Kendall Willis Garrett (Kenny).

         When I went to high school, I found two new friends, Donna and Terry. Two years later, I was dating Kenny and found out that Donna and he were cousins.

         My bus got to the school before Kenny's bus. I would wait for his bus, and if he wasn't on it, it was a sad day, because his phone number was a long-distance one, so I couldn't call him. I'd wait for him the next day. He would get off the bus, grab my books, and walk me to my first class and be at every other one.

         Those two summer vacations, 1962 and 1963, were long. I'd see Kenny every Friday night for the movies, and if there were a party or dance, and sometimes he would hitch-hike over on Sundays. Nancy would sneak a peek and then tell Mommy, "They're kissing!"

         Kenny and I would take a walk so we could hide from Nancy. When we did that, she never found us.

         Doreen and I both went to the 1963 Junior Prom. My boyfriend, Kenny, was in Doreen’s class of 1964, too, Doreen and I went dress and shoe shopping together and had our hair done at Fred and George's, off Broadway in Newburgh. Firm.  We could've come out in a tornado and not a hair would have moved out of place. This was the “in place” to be seen, and the one place you wanted to say did your hair.

         Thus progressed a 20-month romance: movies, dances, parties, Christmas, Valentine’s day, birthdays, until December 1963, just before Christmas, when we went to a dance. This was our big date. He could drive. Our last dance that night was to Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away, Little Girl.“

         Little did this “little girl” know what was in store for her. Before I got home, we parked, and he told me he was breaking up with me, but he also told me not to date anyone else because he might be back. No, he didn't come back. The next day, I cried. Nancy knew I was upset, too,  and she told Grandma how sad I was.

         After the Christmas holiday, we went back to school, and as I sat in class, in came Kenny, walking one of my girlfriends to class. This broke my heart, my first real heart-break. It took me several months to get over this.


        We are serializing the book recently published by Kathleen Blake Shields through Outskirts Press, Home Is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood. It is available in paperback from OP and from online booksellers like and I am proud to have been Kathy's coach and editor for the book. My coaching-writing-editing site is

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